Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Diving in West Palm Beach, Florida

We took a family trip to West Palm Beach over the Labor Day weekend.  It was nice to get another summer trip in and the weather was pretty good with some sun and some showers.  We spent a few days at the beach and a few days at the pool at the hotel and my brother-in-laws place.

The highlight of the trip for me was a morning of scuba diving.  I contacted The Scuba Club and made a reservation for a two tank dive.  I arrived early and got set up with rental gear.  I was surprised that most folks were diving without wetsuits.  After the first dive, I could see why, the balmy 78 degree water was extremely pleasant during the dives.  I was also surprised that over half the boat was diving using Nitrox, rather than standard air.  At 80 feet, the Nitrox did allow divers to stay down 45 minutes instead of 30 minutes without any adverse affect.

We dove at two sites, Mizpah and The Breakers.  The Mizpah is at Corridor Wrecks along with the Amaryllis.  Stephen Brown’s article describes these sites much better than I can.  It was pretty cool to view these wrecks from the outside.  They are submerged at a depth of 80 feet.  The highlight of the Mizpah dive was the Goliath Grouper that spawn in August and September.  Apparently they can be 300 – 400 pounds.  My estimator is a bit off, but they certainly seemed to be at least 200 pounds.  We encountered over a dozen of them.

The Breakers is a reef that is absolutely teaming with tropical fish.  We also saw two loggerhead turtles which were pretty cool.  The breakers depth is only 60 feet so we had a little more bottom time before heading up for a safety stop.

The Scuba Club is a pretty cool group with members diving together several days a week.  They certainly take their camera work pretty seriously and I saw many contraptions with impressive lighting.  Several folks also had GoPro cameras.  I decided to leave my GoPro at home.  During my last dive, I got a little caught up with image capture and wanted to focus more on my diving.  A camera is cool, but considering the things that can go wrong, I want to be a more experienced diver first.

Some folks on the boat were also snagging Florida lobster, which are currently in season.  Among 3 divers, I think they got 7 lobsters.

This was also my first experience drift diving.  The currents along the dive sites can be around 3 miles per hour, but were pretty gentle during our dives.  We got off the boat in pairs and were instructed to give the OK and then start descending to the dive site.  The dive master kept a float on a line and when it was time to head up the boat came around and picked us up (as opposed to staying anchored).  To get back on the boat you just started kicking really hard and got on the platform like a beached whale and then got a knee and stood yourself up.  The next time I dive down there, I will buy a safety sausage, in case I need to alert the boat to my position.  I stayed close to the dive master, but several groups got off by themselves.

No comments: